So in preparation for my upcoming trip to Thailand, I wanted to learn some of the basic phrases. Now I’m well aware of Thailand’s reputation as a place where helpless white men got to get laid and/or married, but I really had no idea how bad it was until I stumbled upon the Thai Talkboard app for the iPad:

The Thai TalkBoard for helpless white men.

Just the phrases they include on their short list is a warning sign: “Are you married?” or “You are a pretty girl.” (or my favorite: “What’s your phone number?”, as if anyone using this app could managed a phone call in Thai…)

Of course, I’ve run into this before. Some years back I grabbed a Lonely Planet French Phrasebook for a trip to Paris, and found it useless beyond eating, drinking, and securing a prostitute. I feel that the Lonely Planet people, like the Thai Talkboard folks, are just playing off of people’s fantasies: that foreign women are so easy you merely have to learn the words to ask. And I did see a lot of coupling happening the bars, though it was usually between a couple of travellers who already spoke the same language.

But it wasn’t the contents of the application itself that raised my eyebrows, rather its reviews. The top two went like this:

Great App *****
My wife is Thai and speaks very little English. This app does a nice job for basic communication…

What?, I think. This guy managed to get married to a woman that he needs an app this simplistic to communicate with? And what did he do before he bought the app? I hate to judge, but that doesn’t sound too romantic to me.

Wrong meaning **
When clicking at “are you married?”, it asks for a phone number instead. Please correct…

Again, ‘What?’ You speak this little Thai, yet you used this app to ask some woman if she was married? Did you say it yourself, or did you just hold it up and press the button, attempting to mesmerise the woman with your electronic gizmo? Of course, considering that the iPad, while common enough here in the states, costs a half-year’s salary in Thailand, that might well have been enough.

So while I won’t be courting any Thai women with a pre-canned, ‘I love you,’ one phrase that I’ll make good use of is, “I need a drink.”